[Concilium] The Decline of SVR (?)

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[Concilium] The Decline of SVR (?)

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Thu Aug 18, 2005 11:15 am

In another topic, Curio wrote :

I think we need to discuss bigger changes than this, otherwise nothing will change in SVR's slowly declining activity. What were the reasons for the events that stimulated this crisis? What can we do to prevent them from occurring again? How can we help SVR find its way?


A core issue. What do the rest of us think about this ?

<I will edit this posting and give my own opinion later today or tomorrow>
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sat Aug 20, 2005 3:43 am

if the discussions are interesting people will stay active
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Crisis?

Postby Aldus Marius on Sat Aug 20, 2005 6:47 am

Salvete magistri,

Dixit Curio amice:

> I think we need to discuss bigger changes than this, otherwise nothing will change
> in SVR's slowly declining activity. What were the reasons for the events that stimulated
> this crisis? What can we do to prevent them from occurring again? How can we
> help SVR find its way?


First off, I'm not convinced there was any crisis. We had a slowdown in late Spring/early Summer, same as every year; we kicked around some ideas about reforming the Regula...same as every year.

Now, can I be blunt...? --The only difference this year was that Consul Coruncanius stuck his head in the door while we were doing this, and freaked. I know a few others of you have noticed that he tends to do this whenever there is an honest, vigorous discussion going on that starts to head off in a direction that makes him uncomfortable. He's shut down a few Forum discussions already this year--no rationale given, just "I don't really think this is productive" vel simile.

I called him on the second one, the Roman Market Days topic that became an exchange about the OP (since several NovaRomani were going to be there). I wrote him a long PM about the actual, current state of things in that Roman Internet Micronation. I told him that, rather than come out swinging blindly every time their name came up in the Senate, he needed to update his concept of what the RIM was all about so he could make informed decisions about them. Not necessarily "favorable" (although that shouldn't be out of the question)--just "informed." And that, because they were such a large group, and because they were sponsoring and participating in Roman events all over the world, we really needed to dispense with the silly gag rule we've been observing these last four years, and acknowledge the existence of that organization and the likely necessity of eventually doing business with them.

I never got a reply back; I waited over a month. Instead we all got Coruncanius becoming acutely uncomfortable with our reform talk, charging us with being a buncha quitters who were just waiting for Mama NovaRoma to come tuck us back under Her skirts, and then disbanding the whole frippin' government. Talk about ending discussion--!

Now, the purpose of my narrative is not to cast all the blame on one person. Coruncanius doesn't make the newbies lurk instead of post; he doesn't cause Rectores and Magistrates to be elected and then go idle; he doesn't make threads peter out after three or four posts, or long-standing members disappear. We have all of these troubles; and to the extent our work can affect the choices and behaviors of other people, we should try to address them.

But I did want to highlight something. We have prospered when we were just ourselves, just being the SVR, going on about our daily business and doing things that we think are fun. We post, we explain, we debate, we share. The active membership of this organization is at its best when it does things with the thought of enabling everyone who reads the Board to know what the active members know...all of it, no matter where it came from.

OTOH, we have suffered whenever we got caught up in what "others" might think of us: Are we comprehensive enough? Are we scholarly enough? Will This-or-That drive away prospective new members? Chief among these preoccupations has been our relationship with the OP: The Roman Internet Micronation, about which we have been conflicted from the first; which gives many of us a shared past, pleasant or otherwise; which is sending us many of our new members and member-prospects...and which most of the rest of our Sodales haven't heard of at all.

Every time the RIM comes up, I get several PMs. I get these PMs from people who either want to know how things are between the SVR and the OP, and why; or who don't know what we're talking about in the first place. I get them for two reasons:

-- One, there is nowhere on the Board to discuss our experiences with the RIM. (I had proposed to Coruncanius that we inaugurate a private area, rather like this one, for a "NovaRoma Survivors' Network", where affected members could share their experiences in the OP and help each other over them. I even offered to moderate, to keep everybody productive and on-topic. I was told that this would make the Societas sound too much like a bunch of whiners.)

-- Two, there is nowhere on the SVR Web site where a new member can read about our origins and/or history with the OP, so that they might understand why we talk about it the way we do. And these two reasons have in turn a reason of their own: We decided, early on, that talking about NovaRoma would be counterproductive, possibly injurious to some of us, and consumptive of energies that would best be applied elsewhere. Instead, we have been abiding by a sort of "gentleman's agreement" not to sink any more bandwidth into discussing NR than we absolutely have to.

Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I could be doing a few other things besides fielding NR-related PMs. This "gag rule" (and the Board quirk that will not let you publish the words "NovaRoma" with a space) may have been a helpful thing in the beginning. But we have matured, and NR has matured (some!), and we need to be dealing with that organization as it is, not as we left it four years ago. It is becoming too much a part of the things we do (like projects, events) to ignore.

We need to make up our minds what we are going to do vis-a-vis the OP. Those of us most directly affected need to have a space where we can discuss it. And we need to put the background information in front of our people so they don't have to find someone on their own to fill them in. (We used to have Praeceptores for that. Where'd they go...?)

In that way, paradoxically, we really can make a clean break with the OP, because we will have freed ourselves from the need to hide it, hide from it, or obsess over it. And we can go back to being our Rotten Rowdy Roman selves, full-time, the way our membership wants to be and likes us to be.

That's gotta be good for participation and recruitment!

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sat Aug 20, 2005 6:30 pm

Salvete

I don't want to waste any more space on NoRo than would be productive for SVR. There is a whole lot I could say about them, in the past and today, give you a who's who, their factional disputes - by Hades, right now I have access to their censor files because of my office in the NoRo, the very thing Conucanius feared about one of their senators having access to our info, we now have to theirs. But... Two points in response to Marius

I agree that we need to consider them as they are today and not what we recall from our previous experiences. The past 8 months has made great changes inside there. And BTW at the moment they too are arguing over scrapping their Constitution and rewriting everything. There are opportunities for SVR to work with them on some things, which could benefit SVR. There are also some people in there, not the whole organization, that are hostile to SVR, so we do need to be better informed about them before reacting to them.

The second point, I agree that it would benefit some people to discuss their experiences in NoRo, a catharsis for them, BUT SVR IS NOT THE PLACE to offer space for such discussions. That is why we imposed the policy about no direct mention of them so that SVR would not turn into some counter NoRo but would be free to develop on its own. I think we can ease the ban, allow productive discussions of how we can work with NoRo of today, but this would set up a situation where people would be posting their gripes about that OP, and it is therefore better to leave such discussions to private communications.

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sat Aug 20, 2005 7:42 pm

Horatius Piscinus wrote:There are opportunities for SVR to work with them on some things, which could benefit SVR.


Perhaps we could begin by approaching the NR-affiliated "Academia Thules" http://www.academiathules.org/ ?

Vale,

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sun Aug 21, 2005 4:46 am

Salvete

Academia Thules has approached me about the possibility of their working with SVR. One thing they would like is to be allowed to post their class schedules at one of SVR's fora. They also have positions open for praeceptors, and you do not have to be a member of NR to attend classes or to teach at AT. In return the AT offers SVR a place to advertise ourselves. They have also considered offering a course about SVR as they do about NR. The AT is incorporated separate from NR, and although affiliated in some ways with NR, it is an independent educational organization. There is a very good opportunity there that I think could benefit SVR and we should consider it later after we have resolved the matter before us concerning the Regulae.

Valete optime
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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sun Aug 21, 2005 8:42 am

Horatius Piscinus wrote:Salvete

Academia Thules has approached me about the possibility of their working with SVR. One thing they would like is to be allowed to post their class schedules at one of SVR's fora. They also have positions open for praeceptors, and you do not have to be a member of NR to attend classes or to teach at AT. In return the AT offers SVR a place to advertise ourselves. They have also considered offering a course about SVR as they do about NR. The AT is incorporated separate from NR, and although affiliated in some ways with NR, it is an independent educational organization. There is a very good opportunity there that I think could benefit SVR and we should consider it later after we have resolved the matter before us concerning the Regulae.

Valete optime


I think that would be a very good idea. AT does not need to be a 'rival' of SVR, as both organisations, doing different things, could be perfectly complementary. I am entirely in favour of a cooperation, which could be beneficial to both organisations.

Vale,

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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Sun Aug 21, 2005 2:47 pm

Working with AT sounds like a very good idea.

Back to the regulae, does it make sense to include a statement that SVR welcomes the opportunity to cooperate with other organizations that share its (educational) goal?

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Postby Curio Agelastus on Mon Aug 22, 2005 6:38 pm

Salvete omnes,

About working with AT, I think that's a superb idea.

About the possibility of a forum to discuss experiences with NR, I understand Piscinus' reasons for wanting to keep this separate from SVR, thus preventing SVR from becoming an anti-NR organisation. We are our own organisation, no longer just a reaction to NR. However, Mari, I do understand that you would like to see such a forum come into existence. I'd therefore recommend that this forum be set up elsewhere, and invitations sent to all SVR members who were originally of NR. Of the gag rule, I do think it should be lifted - NR is as much a part of modern Romanitas as SVR, and is thus a valid topic for discussion as is the Imperium Romanorum, which was the last time I checked still a one-man message board. :lol:


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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Mon Aug 22, 2005 7:21 pm

Curio Agelastus wrote:About the possibility of a forum to discuss experiences with NR, I understand Piscinus' reasons for wanting to keep this separate from SVR, thus preventing SVR from becoming an anti-NR organisation. We are our own organisation, no longer just a reaction to NR. However, Mari, I do understand that you would like to see such a forum come into existence. I'd therefore recommend that this forum be set up elsewhere, and invitations sent to all SVR members who were originally of NR.


I entirely agree.

Valete,

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NR Survivor's Network

Postby Aldus Marius on Tue Aug 23, 2005 8:11 am

Salvete amici,

I thank Curio and Atticus for having seen the worth of my basic idea. The details, like all details under discussion here, are subject to negotiation. The "NR Survivors' Network" (or whatever name we give it) does not have to be on the SVR Board; just so long as we do have an area for it somewhere, and we make sure people know where it is.

I still think that a recap, somewhere in the FAQ, of our origins and relations with NR (and maybe other Roman groups) would be a beneficial addition to the Web site. We wouldn't (and shouldn't) go into morbid detail; we just want the newcomers to know what we mean by 'OP' and 'RIM', and that we branched off from it to do our own thing, and why we talk about the place the way we do (very sketchy rationale here...which means I probably won't get to write that paragraph! <g>).

And can we get rid of that silly Board tweak? I think we've outgrown it.

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Perspective

Postby Aldus Marius on Tue Aug 23, 2005 9:19 am

A little perspective:

The other Board I'm on has 760 members, who have written a total of 276 articles.

We, otoh, have maybe 245 registered members...who have, between 'em, cranked out nearly 8600 articles.

Okay, granted not every Board member is an actual Sodalis, and the Webmaster has to purge bogus names every day, but...does that sound much like a 'decline'?

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Re: Perspective

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Tue Aug 23, 2005 10:11 am

Marius Peregrine wrote:A little perspective:

The other Board I'm on has 760 members, who have written a total of 276 articles.

We, otoh, have maybe 245 registered members...who have, between 'em, cranked out nearly 8600 articles.

Okay, granted not every Board member is an actual Sodalis, and the Webmaster has to purge bogus names every day, but...does that sound much like a 'decline'?

In fide,


If S.V.R. is perhaps in decline, it is certainly not in ruins. That is clear from the number of messages still posted, and from the fact that we can still find at least 10 members willing to put their time and energy in this concilium to reform S.V.R.

However, I do think there's a relative decline if we compare our current activity rate with an earlier period in our history. In our second year, e.g., we had new essays written by a sodalis at least every two weeks (almost all of the contributions on our websites are pre-2004). Now, we're lucky if we can read an essay every two months. Projects like the 'Trial of Cicero' or the philosophical symposia, in the recent past, succeeded in securing enough participants and starting on the foreseen date. The projects we recently tried to launch (essay contest, symposium IV) were stillborn. We no longer have the chat sessions that were once regularly organised.

I think we have to acknowledge this relative decline, without however starting to panick. We just need to think of new ways to attract members and, as Marius pointed out, to keep them once they are in.

Valete,

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Postby Curio Agelastus on Tue Aug 23, 2005 10:27 am

Mi Mari, rather than have a paragraph on NR in the FAQ, what if we were to have a written history of SVR? This "second founding" seems as good a time as any, and we've been around long enough to justify such a history being written. It would be a lot easier for us than for NR, since we don't indulge in the same partisan politics that they take such delight in, so there'd be no need for any Evil Dionysian Empires or Equally Evil Scribonian revolutionaries. (Sorry to disappoint y'all) :lol:

You're right, Mari, we have managed an impressive level of activity if taken over the entirety of our existence. But, as Atticus says, that activity has been declining. The amount of active members outside this Concilium can be counted on one hand. Which means that the total amount of active members in SVR can be counted on... um... three hands... We therefore do need to figure out ways of getting more active members to SVR. That said, we should take heart in the fact that we do have a few active members who are relatively new to SVR, such as Scerio and Cleopatra Aelia. Hopefully discussions in the other topic will enable us to recruit a few more...

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Sat Sep 03, 2005 9:43 pm

Salvete amici,

I apologise for not having been here since mid-August, but then again from the onset I made it clear that I'll not be a figure in the frontlines in this episode. With that said, I'll give my opinion on this matter as briefly as possible.

1. On NR: I think NR is hampered by a few fatal flaws that are already apparent in its whole goal/outlook/basic structure. Creating a state and a religion is difficult enough already, let alone recreating one. It takes years of dedication, professionalism and research to achieve something. Even though NR possesses a handful of dedicated, professional people, to them too, NR is a hobby and not a full-time occupation. Piscinus posted here that they are currently looking at rewriting their Constitution. That would make a good starting point to eradicate the elements in their core that cause NR to fail -- I am momentarily not talking about its members.

2. On what to do with NR: Unless they have considerably improved their level of professionalism and have done away with their clumsiest of historical, linguistic and structural errors, I don't see any major benefit in becoming associated with them. However, don't let this opinion stop anyone from pursuing such an association. I say this without sarcasm, because after all, the happiness and satisfaction of the people here is more important to me than my own opinions with regards to NR.

3. On the AT: I don't have any major problems with the AT, except that it remains a subsidiary, if that can be the accurate word, of NR. By associating ourselves with the AT, we'd first need to reorganise (but that's obvious) and streamline ourselves, and then brush up on all our site content. Right now I cringe at the idea of my old essays being used by people who want to learn about Antiquity. Most of my articles do not conform to any academic standard and some are quite poorly written. This counts for a lot of essays on our site, except Piscinus's. If we could do that (and I am willing to revise my old essays for this), I wouldn't be opposed to getting involved with the AT or even merging with them. The only thing I really wouldn't want is we becoming a subsidiary to AT. Then I'd rather merge.

4. On the declining activity: I've never been blind to the positive fact that for such a small community, we are fairly active. I've been saying for quite some time now that the problem does not primarily lie in our number of members, or maybe not even our number of active members. Our problem has always been to somehow permanently catch new members. Only two examples spring to mind of people who have not left or gone inactive: Tergestus and Coruncanius. The rest left or became only erratically active. Honestly I don't know why this is. Part of it may be, as with NR, our unrealistic ambitions when we founded SVR. Most other online communities I visit either have sharply defined, concrete goals, or very general topics. Antiquity IS a very general topic, but not if you want to build a true community around it. On most other forums, a community is formed all by itself, with old veterans being replaced gradually by newcomers. This isn't happening here, and one of the reasons, next to overburdening ourselves with tasks, goals and visions, is the following thing.

5. On the declining activity, part II: Another cause of the declining activity is the fact that most of the people who helped founding SVR are not natural leaders, teachers or organisers. I'm not saying we should all have been SVR fanatics like some NRi are/were (and in the process turn away serious people and become a magnet for other nut jobs), but the fact is most of SVR's membership are people who enjoy dwelling on the fringe, being solitary thinkers or simply eccentric invididuals. While this is an interesting point that sets us apart from other online communities, it also causes the impression that most of us aren't actively involved in SVR's goals or concrete organisation. The fact that we are all easy-going, lonesome cowboys has also caused another thing, namely that conflict, which is so common on other newsgroups, forums and communities, is close to unexistent.

6. On the declining activity, part III: I've noticed that times when SVR is experiencing peaks in activity, is around 'crises' or problematic phases. This holds true for any online community I know. I don't think SVR should engender crises or purposely create controversial policies to get people involved (it would be like saying the Patriot Act was made to make people aware of politics), but the fact is that many online communities and its membership experience quite some dissent. That makes it interesting for lurkers and prospective members. If, for example, Atticus and I were to get into an extremely fierce debate about the soul, it is likely to attract more new people, new opinions and so on than a question about the godhood of Antinoos. Certainly if we were to talk more about our personal lives in the general forum, about our opinions on current events, sports, celebrities... that would attract more people, or more opinions in any case. But of course, talking about the newest exploits of Paris Hilton is not one of SVR's goals, and quite rightly so. What I'm basically saying is that our own friendship and the absence of major antagonistic elements in SVR's public life have also contributed to the decline in activity.

Those are my opinions on this topic for now.

Optime valete!
Draco

PS: Piscine, I only read your pm now. Unless you have a username for me, I can't find the requested individual.
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